City of Berkeley Transporta-tion Department staff has released the city’s draft of a Locally Preferred Alternative to AC Transit’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit system, the East Bay bus agency’s ambitious but controversial plan to establish fast-moving, light-rail-like bus service along the current 1 and 1R lines between downtown San Leandro and downtown Berkeley.
AC Transit has proposed that most of its Bus Rapid Transit line would run with limited stops along bus-only lanes in the center lanes of the route. That proposal has drawn considerable controversy in Berkeley, where residents and merchants are divided over the proposal to block off the center lanes of Telegraph Avenue for bus-only use.
In its response to AC Transit’s rapid bus proposal, staff members from Berkeley’s Transportation Department are proposing running center lane bus-only lanes along Telegraph between the Oakland border and Dwight Way, making the current one-way Telegraph between Dwight and Bancroft a two-way street with buses-only in the southbound lane, and setting up bus-only lanes (with limited auto use) in the right-hand lanes of Bancroft and Durant between Telegraph and Shattuck.
Last November, Berkeley Bus Rapid Transit opponents put a measure on the Berkeley ballot to mandate that any street lane changes such as those being proposed by AC Transit must first go to Berkeley voters. Measure KK lost overwhelmingly, 77 percent to 23 percent. But because the measure would have put in place a cumbersome citizen balloting process for any street lane changes in the city, whether or not it was Bus Rapid Transit-related, it is not clear how much the vote on the measure indicated support for or against the Bus Rapid Transit proposal.
The Bus Rapid Transit proposal has drawn support from two veteran Berkeley politicians who often find themselves on opposite sides of city issues. Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates and City Councilmember Kriss Worthing-ton, who sit on the Policy Steering Committee of local elected officials that is advising AC Transit on the project, are both in favor of Bus Rapid Transit in Berkeley.
Under the procedures agreed to by AC Transit and the City of Berkeley, Berkeley city staff’s proposed BRT alternative will be voted on by the Berkeley City Council after city officials and the Council get input from Berkeley residents.
City officials have scheduled a Saturday, October 17 public workshop at the city’s main library on Kitteridge Street to discuss Berkeley’s BRT proposal. The meeting will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. The purpose of the workshop is to present the proposal to Berkeley citizens, and to receive back public comment.
A public hearing before the city’s Transportation Commission has been scheduled for Thursday, October 29, with a hearing before the Planning Commission scheduled for Wednesday, November 18.
Once the Berkeley City Council makes its decision on the Bus Rapid Transit proposal alternative, the AC Transit Board of Directors will vote on final approval of the project. Because cities such as Berkeley have control over the passageway of its streets, AC Transit cannot change the use of city streets-including dedicating bus-only lanes or altering one-way or two-way configurations-without city approval.
AC Transit is currently projecting final design completion and beginning of construction on its proposed Bus Rapid Transit system by mid-2012, with the opening of the new system scheduled for 2015.
Highlights of Berkeley’s Locally Preferred Alternative include:
• Establishing bus-only center lanes, northbound and southbound, on Telegraph Avenue south of Dwight Way.
• Turning the current two-lane, one way, northbound-only portion north of Dwight Way into a two-way, northbound and southbound street. The southbound lane would be bus, delivery and emergency vehicle, and bike-only. Private autos and trucks would be banned in the southbound lane.
• Allow bus-only use of the right-hand lanes on Bancroft and Durant between Telegraph and Shattuck, with Bancroft continuing to run one-way east to west (Telegraph to Shattuck) and Durant one-way in the opposite direction. Curbside parking to be maintained on Bancroft and Durant, with non-bus vehicles allowed to enter the bus-only lanes for the sole purpose of either entering parking spaces or making right-hand turns.
The complete draft of Berkeley’s BRT proposal, including breakdowns of individual segments along Telegraph Avenue, has been posted on the city’s website at www.cityofberkeley.info/ContentDisplay.aspx?id=43568.